Here’s a rundown of the 8 books I read in October. This month’s list was aided by the fact that I was near the end of two of the larger books when the month began. Plus, it includes some really great books. Happy reading!
The Cross of Christ by John Stott
I merely meant to use this book as a reference in preparation for a sermon focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet, in picking it up I was fascinated by my own marginal notes! I first read this book in the early days of my theological studies. Scribbled in the margin spaces are many questions, agreements, disagreements, stars, and exclamation marks. This month I found myself flipping through the book to read my own notes. This led me to reread the book in its entirety over the course of a few days.
Stott is a legend. He writes academic and popular work from a clear evangelical perspective. The Cross of Christ is deemed by many as his greatest contribution. It is an exhaustive look at the work done by Jesus Christ on the cross. It provides a great introduction to many theological themes and provides a tremendous on ramp to more study.
For those familiar with the study of cross, Stott does spend a great deal of time on what is commonly referred to as “atonement theories.” He devotes the bulk of his attention to penal substitutionary atonement – clearly lifting it above other images. This is my only frustration with the book. I’d love to hear Stott discuss the Christus Victor view in greater detail. I love the way Stott tackles the book breaking down his working into the following sections: approaching the cross, the heart of the cross, the achievement of the cross, and living under the cross. I consider this a must read.
Bugles in the Afternoon: Dealing with Discouragement and Disillusionment in Ministry by Judson Edwards
This book was given to me as a gift a few months ago. Please note: I will not turn down a gift in the form of a book. My friend who passed along the book to me was college roommates with the author. In support of his old college roommate and as a generous gift to me, he dropped it off at my office one day.
The title and premise is fantastic. Edwards opens the book with the story of how early in his ministry he purchased a book titled Trumpets in the Morning. The well-known author of that book detailed how every morning he was blessed to hear trumpets summoning him to serve the Lord and make an eternal difference in the world. Edwards shares a different story. He discusses the blessing of ministry but does not hide the difficulty, the loneliness, and the boatloads of conflict. Thus, he doesn’t reference trumpets in the morning but bugles in the afternoon. He writes,
When it’s the hottest time of the day and the promise of the morning has faded and the solace of the night has not yet arrived, we hear the muted but unmistakable bleat of a bugle. The sound of that bugle reminds us that there is still work to be done and good news to be proclaimed. It reminds us that God is still alive and well and calling us to be faithful right where we are. And it reminds us that God will give us all we need to get the job done.
The book is a beautiful memoir of sorts on the difficult yet high calling of ministry. While the book highlights the challenges of ministry, the shared experience provides tremendous encouragement.
Pioneering Movements: Leadership That Multiplies Disciples and Churches
This book is a game changer for those who take it seriously. To be honest … the author of this book would more than likely look at my ministry and see that I don’t take it seriously.
This is not a book about church growth. This is a book about multiplication. This is not a book about church. This is a book about movements. Addison argues for multiplication of disciples and churches through movement leadership. Here are Addison’s 5 stages of movement leadership: seed sower, church planter, church multiplier, multiplication trainer, and movement catalyst. These are not simply hip and catchy titles. The book provides substance and numerous real life examples.
Here’s a glance at a few of the terms that might be unfamiliar. Church multiplies are church planters who have learned how to start churches that reproduce generations of new churches. These people move beyond adding new churches to multiplying them to fourth generations and beyond. Multiplication trainers are church multipliers who have learned to equip other church multipliers to achieve third and fourth generation churches. Movement catalysts are those who take on a broad responsibility to reach an unreached population segment or region. They are the catalysts for multiple streams of church planting within a previously unengaged and unreached people group.
The book challenges the well-established way to “do church” and reach people. I found the book extremely challenging to my way of thinking. I have yet to fully digest it.
T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution by Steve Smith and Ying Kai
This book is very closely aligned in thought with Pioneering Movements. While Pioneering Movements casts the vision for movement leadership, T4T provides more of an instruction manual. T4T is an abbreviation for training for trainings. As the name implies the authors advocate for ministry leaders to invest time in training people to train others. In return, movements are born that multiple into the fourth generation.
While I referred to T4T as an instruction manual please do not confuse it with curriculum or a step-by-step guide. This book explains the T4T process. The authors stress that “process” is the best way to describe it. And it is much different than what you’re probably accustomed to seeing in churches.
In most typical small group multiplication systems, new people are brought into an existing group, whether they are new believers or mature Christians. As the group gets to a certain size, it divides into two or three groups with new leaders. The idea is grow and then multiply. T4T is a completely different process. It is not grow and then multiply. The design is not to bring new beliers into existing groups. Rather, T4T is launch and repeat: as trainers lead people to faith, empower them to launch new groups and then to repeat the process with their new trainees. This is a process of multiplying trainers.
Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill
Another game changer. I’ve spent the last two years with a small group praying early Monday mornings for revival. I’m eagerly awaiting such a thing. Yet, I often ask myself: What will revival look like when it arrives? What keeps revival from showing up on our doorstep?
These questions led me to reread Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries. Ravenhill was born in England in 1907 and moved to the United States in the 1950’s. He traveled the U.S. holding evangelistic tent meetings. Along the way he wrote a number of books on revival and prayer. He died living in Texas in 1994. He counted pastor/writer A.W. Tozer and singer Keith Green as close friends.
Why Revival Tarries was published in 1959. My copy is the ninth printing from 1965. Its a used copy and falling apart. I love it. The book looks old which is appropriate since the words within it seems like nothing being spoken today. Many lines jump off the page, hang in the air, and take the air from the room.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago with quotes from this book. You can find it here. There is gold on almost every page of this book. Perhaps my favorite: Preachers make pulpits famous; prophets make prisons famous.
Adams VS Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling
If you’ve been following my reading logs (as hard as it is to believe I have a few devoted fans of the log), you’ve seen my nearly year-long obsession with Alexander Hamilton. This book continues the trend of digging into the Hamilton story. Yet, in this volume Hamilton is a background character.
Ferling’s work is fantastic for those deeply interested in the subject. This is a work from an academic press (Oxford University). Thus, it is not easy reading but tremendously researched. If you think current US presidential elections are full of drama – wait until you get a grip on this story. It has all the drama of modern day politics but replace social media with not-yet-established rules for political engagement and unclear constitutional guidelines.
It’s a story filled with mudslinging and backstabbing that would make Twitter blush. Perhaps the low point is Hamilton’s 54 page attack on John Adams that had great influence on the race. Who’ve got to admire a guy so skilled with the quill! The election ends with a electoral college tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. That’s right not Adams but Burr. In the election of 1800 votes for president and vice president were not on separate ballots. There was no way to distinguish a vote for president and a vote for vice president. The tie, after dozens of votes in congress, was settled after a secret deal was struck to change a single vote. Jefferson moved into the White House. Guess who played a role in the secret deal … that’s right. Alexander Hamilton.
JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President by Thurston Clarke
I LOVED this book. I’ve not done much reading of Kennedy but have a few volumes lined up on my to-be-read shelf. This was a great start. As the title suggests, this is a look at the last hundred days of Kennedy’s life. It literally gives you a day-to-day rundown, at times taking it a few days at a time.
I really enjoyed the author’s inclusion of Kennedy’s marginal notes during meetings and conversations. It is fascinating to read what sentences Kennedy underlined or words he wrote in the margin while in meetings concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis or conversations on the Civil Rights Movement. These tidbits here and there make the book pure gold for me.
It is also refreshing to read a presidential biography that gives an even handed view of the subject. Clarke does not paint Kennedy as a saint. He details Kennedy’s sex addiction, vanity, and ambition to be liked alongside his political genius, incredible intellect, and leadership ability.
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
First, a note on reading habits. I’m frequently asked for advice on how to read more. This book is a perfect example of one of my go-to suggestions: have a large to-be-read stack. Reading is often about mood. Sometimes a certain book just jumps out to you and begs to be completed. I was walking out of my office and looked at my TBR stack for a weekend book. The books at the top of stack didn’t grab my attention. Yet, this little gem near the bottom sure did. I took it home and read it over two days in about three sittings. It struck my mood at the time.
This is a beautiful, well-written novel. The characters have depth and so does the storyline. The book follows an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a failing grocery store in a struggling neighborhood in Washington DC. It’s a story about friendship, race, and identity. It has one of the most interesting “love stories” that I have ever read. Simple yet powerful. Powerful yet subtle.